Target Aims to Acquire Federated Sites

Target is eyeing locations put on the market by Federated Department Stores Inc.

NEW YORK — Target is eyeing locations put on the market by Federated Department Stores Inc.

The Minneapolis-based discounter joins other retailers in the bidding for Federated stores, notably Nordstrom which has recently purchased seven Federated properties. Boscov’s, the Reading, Pa.-based department store chain, has purchased 10 units and The Westfield Group, the Australian shopping center developer, has purchased 15.

Federated now has 55 department stores and the 54-unit Lord &Taylor on the block, as a result of its acquisition of May Department Stores last year.

According to retail and real estate sources, Target has bid aggressively for Federated locations and may be close to securing at least two, including a Strawbridge store in the Springfield Mall near Philadelphia and a Robinsons-May store in the Westminster Mall in Orange County, Calif.

“They [Target] bid aggressively on several Federated sites, but did not get nearly the number of stores they would have liked,” said a real estate source. “They’re hungry for stores. They want to open 120 a year.”

He noted that Target is particularly interested in the Northeast. The mass merchant historically built stores from scratch in strip centers and other off-mall locations, but in recent years has become more acceptable in malls and more urban locations. The company has been eyeing Manhattan for years.

Federated declined comment on the Target report, and Target did not return phone calls Monday.

Target’s objectives raise speculation that it may take a close look at Lord & Taylor locations, although Federated is intent on selling the retailer as an ongoing concern, rather than piecemeal. That may be tough, considering the chain has not been performing well for years and would require major capital infusions to get back on track.

The real estate source, and a retail executive close to the situation, said Federated is expected to issue a book on Lord & Taylor in 60 to 90 days, and wants to receive bids in the second half of 2006 and have a sale arranged before the end of the year.

Nordstrom, the Seattle-based specialty chain, will take over a Macy’s site in the Ross Park Mall in Pittsburgh and open a two-level, 144,000-square-foot store there in the fall of 2008. It will be Nordstrom’s first unit in the Pittsburgh metro area. From 2007-2010, Nordstrom is also opening in former Lord & Taylor sites in Aventura Mall in Florida and Cherry Creek Shopping Center in Denver, and in former Macy’s units in Burlington, North Shore and South Shore Plaza malls in Massachusetts, and in Palm Desert, Calif.

This story first appeared in the March 28, 2006 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

In a conference call last week, Nordstrom’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, Mike Koppel, said the company is looking at situations arising from retail consolidations, including Federated-May.

Kohl’s, Bon-Ton, Belk’s, Dillard’s, Wal-Mart and J.C. Penney are also considered possible bidders for Federated locations, though Penney’s expansion drive is directed to off-mall sites.

A non-strategic buyer that could consider a real estate breakup of Lord & Taylor is another possibility. There are some excellent L&T locations that are Federated-owned, including the 610,000-square-foot Fifth Avenue flagship, as well as the Stamford, Conn. unit that would be attractive to real estate firms, such as Vornado Realty Trust. Vornado last year teamed up with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Bain Capital to buy Toys ‘R’ Us, and has a stake in Sears Holdings, the entity that emerged from Kmart’s purchase of Sears, Roebuck and Co.

There are also plenty of hedge funds that would take a look, including Cerberus, Texas Pacific Group, Apax Partners, KKR, The Blackstone Group and Bain.

Federated’s bridal group is on the block as well. As previously reported, there is speculation that a management buyout of the bridal group might be in the works, led by Robert Huth, president and chief executive officer of the bridal group.